- The two-year war killed thousands and displaced millions
- The Ethiopian government and the Tigrayan forces agree to a truce
- The breakthrough comes just a week after talks in South Africa
Pretoria (Reuters) – The Ethiopian government and regional forces from Tigray agreed on Wednesday to a cessation of hostilities, a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough after two years of war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.
Just over a week after formal peace talks brokered by the African Union began in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, delegates from the two sides signed an agreement that an African Union official described as a “permanent cessation of hostilities.”
“The two parties to the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to a cessation of hostilities as well as systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated disarmament,” Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the African Union’s mediation team, said at a ceremony.
Obasanjo, the former Nigerian president, said the agreement also includes “restoring law and order, restoring services, unimpeded access to humanitarian supplies, and protecting civilians.”
An agreement was not expected so soon. Earlier on Wednesday, the African Union called on the media to what it described as a briefing from Obasanjo. Only when the event began, about three hours later than scheduled, did it become clear that the armistice was about to be signed.
“This moment is not the end of the peace process. Implementation of the peace agreement signed today is crucial to its success,” Obasanjo said, adding that this would be overseen and monitored by a high-level panel of the African Union.
He praised the process as an African solution to an African problem.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed his gratitude to Obasanjo and the other mediators for concluding the peace talks, saying in a statement that the government’s commitment to implementing the agreement was strong.
“Our commitment to peace remains unwavering. Our commitment to cooperating to implement the agreement is just as strong,” the statement said on Twitter.
The representative of the Ethiopian government, Radwan Hussein, who is the national security advisor to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said that all parties must abide by the letter and spirit of the agreement.
In response, Tigray delegate Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the regional authorities, spoke of widespread death and destruction in the region and said he hoped and expected that both sides would fulfill their obligations.
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Karen Jean-Pierre said the United States remains committed to supporting the African-led peace process for Ethiopia.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the truce, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“It is a very welcome first step that we hope will begin to bring some solace to the millions of Ethiopian civilians who have already suffered during this conflict,” Dujarric told reporters.
Forces from Eritrea, a separate country bordering Tigray, as well as forces from other Ethiopian regions, took part in the conflict on the side of the Ethiopian army.
Neither Eritrea nor regional forces took part in the talks in South Africa, and there was no mention at Wednesday’s ceremony on whether it would abide by the truce.
The war stems from a catastrophic breakdown in relations between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a guerrilla movement that turned into a political party that has dominated Ethiopia for 27 years, and Abiy, who was once part of the ruling coalition but whose appointment in 2018 ended the alliance. TPLF dominance.
Rising tensions in 2018-20, including Abiy’s peace deal with arch-enemy Eritrea of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and the TPLF’s decision to challenge him by holding regional elections in Tigray he had postponed nationwide, drove the opposing sides to war. .
Wednesday’s agreement does not address the deep political tensions that have contributed to the conflict.
The African Union said in a statement that it is ready to continue to accompany the Ethiopian peace process “towards a more democratic, just and inclusive Ethiopia in which youth, women and men participate fully and peacefully.”
The Tigray Liberation Front accused Abiy of centering power at the expense of the regions and suppressing the Tigrayans, which he denies, while Abi accused the front of seeking to return to power at the national level, which he rejects.
The United Nations says the war has led to a virtual siege of Tigray that has lasted nearly two years, with humanitarian supplies of food and medicine unable to reach most of the time.
Some aid supplies were delivered to Tigray between March and August this year during the temporary ceasefire that collapsed in August, but the World Health Organization said last week that Tigray had run out of vaccines, antibiotics and insulin.
She said that health facilities resort to the use of saline solutions and pieces of cloth to treat and bandage wounds.
The government has consistently denied withholding aid and has said it is distributing food and restoring electricity and other services to areas under its control.
UN bodies, the state-appointed Human Rights Commission in Ethiopia, independent aid groups, and media including Reuters have documented human rights abuses by all parties to the war, including extrajudicial killings, rape, looting and forced displacement.
All parties have denied the allegations.
(Alexander Winning and Tim Cox report). Additional reporting by Aynat Mercy in Nairobi, New York’s Michelle Nichols, and Jeff Mason and Garrett Renshaw in Washington; Writing by Estelle Schrebon; Editing by James Macharia Chage, William MacLean
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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